India: Govt attacked over Illegal Trafficking of Ships

(Image Courtesy: National Herald)

Toxic Watch Alliance, an environmental NGO, has made scathing observations about the indifference of the Indian government in looking the other way as end-of-life ships from other countries, many of them carrying banned toxic and other hazardous substances, continue to be dismantled in the ship-breaking yards of Alang in Gujarat.

In a letter to Trinamool Congress MP in Rajya Sabha, Derek O’Brien, on Jan 21 , Toxic Watch highlighted that a Dutch ship owner which had been penalised in the European Union for beaching an end-of-life ship for scrapping in India remains unpunished by Indian authorities. O’Brien is the Chairman of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Transport, Tourism and Culture.

Calling out the “intertia” and “silence” of the state and central governments over the issue, Toxic Watch’s Dr Gopal Krishna said in his letter that the beached ship was sent to India in violation of the Supreme Court order in 2012 as well as the Basel Convention.

“Let me take the opportunity to submit that it is apparent that the concerned of agencies of Gujarat Government have been indifferent to the repeated notices sent by Union Ministry of Shipping with regard to environmental and occupational health issues concerning ship breaking industry for quite a long time although India is a signatory to the Convention,” said Dr Krishna.

Dr Krishna noted that the owner of the ship, Holland Maas Scheepvaart Beheer II BV, had paid almost three million Euros in penalties and fines for scrapping the ship in India

“I submit that the Dutch ship owner has been fined 7,80,000 EUR and paid a settlement of 2.2 million EUR – totaling to a price tag of almost 3 million EUR – for having beached a ship for scrapping in India,” says the letter

“It may be noted that in 2013, Holland Maas Scheepvaart Beheer II BV, a subsidiary of WEC Lines BV, sold the HMS Laurence to a cash buyer, a company specialised in the trade of end-of-life vessels to beaching yards,” it adds.

According to the Dutch public prosecutor involved in the legal process, the ship “was broken under conditions that cause serious damage to the environment and expose the health of workers and the local population to grave danger.”

Scrapping ships on tidal mudflats is not allowed in Europe, and the export of hazardous materials from the EU to developing countries is prohibited.

“Following criminal investigations on the illegal export of the vessel from Italy, the Dutch Public Prosecutor agreed to a settlement of 2.2 million EUR: the amount that Holland Maas Scheepvaart Beheer II BV had earned by selling the ship to the beaching yard,” the letter reads.

Stating that it was disappointing that Indian authorities had failed to bring to book the erring ship owners, Dr Krishna said, “It is quite disturbing that India has become an importing country of hazardous wastes like end-of-life ships. Our government has failed to promote adoption of better methods and sustainable practices.”

“It is significant to note that unlike India, The Netherlands is taking a leading position on the cracking down on illegal trafficking of toxic ships,” says the letter.

A report in 2015 noted that almost 68 per cent of the end-of-lifer ships that Europe sends every year end up in India, with 90 per cent of them dismantled in Alang’s ship-breaking yards. Environmentalists have time and again flagged this as a major cause of marine pollution in the region.

(Source: National Herald)

Sea News, January 24

Baibhav Mishra
Author: Baibhav Mishra